welcome to summer
the half-wheel of moon drooled down on us, peeking through the pines, half-lighting the peonies, bent from the rains. the summer bugs hadn’t yet started their chorus. but it was june. it was a monday. and it was half past nine, and no one was hurrying.
we were just slamming the car doors, trying not to spill cotton-candy blizzard and blue-raspberry arctic-something-or-other anywhere near the insides of the still-smelling-new new car, which was when i glanced at the clock on the dash, saw it was nearly an hour past school bedtime, and sighed.
“i love summer,” i said, tripping over a rock in the pretty-much dark.
to which the little one retorted, “how many times do i have to tell you? it’s spring. this is spring break. it’s not summer until june 21.”
well, doesn’t he know his numbers?
and yes, technically speaking, were i inclined to pluck words based on the alignment of sun and sweet spinning earth, i would be more precise.
i am, however, not.
i am more stirred by the poetics of these unstructured days than i am by the facts of the matter.
in fact, the minute i start swooning about this state of mind that has me wanting to plop up my crocs and do nothing more rigorous than turning the pages of two delicious books i am reading in tandem (“signaling for rescue,” short stories by marianne herrmann; and “mr. gatling’s terrible marvel,” by my genius of a friend julia keller), i am reminded that summer–like a storm that blows in off the lake, with no warning–suddenly can turn into a mad-dash morning where the manchild has only one way to get to his very cool summer gig slinging a camera: me and the old car i am very much driving to some faraway outpost that requires a map and a mantra–”i will not get mad that no one figured this out the night before.”
and, yes, one of these meanders we can devote to the cold hard truth of summer versus the make-believe version, but let’s–just for the whimsy of it–stick here and now to what summer can be.
think: lemonade stands and peach pie oozing with juice. think summer porch and peanut-butter-and-jelly on a blanket, generously dusted with sand.
and think, maybe, about making a pledge.
oh, no, you needn’t start moaning, thinking i mean to get out the girl scout sash, and work toward one of those neat little circles you tried so clumsily to sew on after checking off each one of the itty-bitty boxes in the ol’ girl scout guide.
let us, though, start out this seasonal dash by holding up the rest of june, all of july and a good chunk of august to their fullest possibility, and then maybe proposing to approach this all with a little more vim and vigor this year.
my thinking along these lines got a bit of a jumpstart when i was out strolling by moonlight on the very first night after the schools around here let out their very last whistle, and shooshed all the kiddies away till the end of dear august, which i’ve now come to understand is sooner than you’d care to think.
wandering down one of the leafy, cobbled streets around here, i looked up at a house with a rather broad porch, a porch like a mama wrapping her arms. there, taped on the front door, was a sign: “welcome to summer.”
two strands of crepe paper, by then sagging, squirmed in the wisp of a wind.
i nearly cried, brightened by the fact that i’m not the only kook who approaches these things with the ceremony they deserve.
but also, mostly, by the notion that summer is more than a stack of hot days, one piled on top of another, like wet swimming trunks dumped in a heap in the basement, just daring the mildew to come.
it got me to thinking about how summer offers the chance to break loose of not only the school year’s constraints, but all those unspoken rules that can make one season bleed into the next.
what if, i wondered, what if summer offered a wholesale new way of being?
what if we reveled in this short sweet reprieve, not by packing up and leaving, but turning inside out each and every day, slathering ourselves in summerness the way other mothers (read: better mothers) remember to grease their bare-backed kiddies with great gobs of sunscreen for a day at the pool?
in my head (where i do all my best work), i started a list.
so far, it goes something like this: wake up late/wake up early. head out to the screened-in porch. sip coffee. listen to the birds wake up. watch the sunlight catch on the lipstick-pink petals of the climbing roses.
make blueberry pancakes. enlist the wicker-basketed bike for all errands. rediscover calf muscles. make daily rounds of the growing things in the so-called garden. carry clippers. cut a new bouquet every day. tuck them in odd places, like next to the children’s beds, just to see if anyone notices.
tiptoe back to the summer porch soon as the afternoon sun starts its descent. keep two books within reach, no matter where i go.
make lazy summer dinners. grill. strip tarragon leaves with reckless abandon, stuff inside chicken breasts, lace through mounds and mounds of pasta.
walk to the train, with all available children. pick up daddy, and watch his face light up.
go to the library. often. sign up for summer reading club. invite neighborhood kiddies to read in the summer porch. bake cupcakes, or simply serve pretzels and lemonade, to accompany whatever we’re reading.
visit your neighborhood ice-cream shop. try hard not to spill in the car. make sure that doesn’t happen by walking.
open the windows. turn on the ballgame. let the little one watch till the end of the game, paying no mind to the time on the clock.
steal away while he counts runs and innings. read some more.
go to bed with all windows wide open. wear summer pjs. fall asleep to nightsounds.
wake up, start all over again. only scramble it up. do something brand-new each day. something you always wanted to do, but couldn’t find the time for back in the days when lost mittens had to be located, and snowboots mucked up the hall.
it’s summertime. welcome to all it can be.
what’s your idea of summer? how will you spend your days? remember this here is make-believe, what you wish it could be.
the challenge: to see how close you can come to making it happen. the pledge: to try really loosely to savor the notion of summer.
i’m thinking of a few ideas here: maybe a summer book swap, read something yummy and mail it along. we might all be delighted by what lands in the mailbox. surely, we’ll take turns in the kitchen. if anyone comes up with something soooooooooo easy and so good, we’ll post it. if a wholly serendipitous summer moment lands in your lap, do tell; it might inspire the rest of us.
till then, kick off your shoes, open the windows, crank up the fans. and go freeze some juice in the old ice-cube tray. remember biting into a sort-of crunchy, sort-of slushy kool-aid cube?
p.s. i think this might be rather meandery. but it’s summer, straight lines and clear thinking are not always the surest way to go. thanks for winding along…..
ah, make-believe summer! what a fine idea. in mine, i pack up the car with paints and paper, beach blanket, camera, stacks of summer reading, flip flops, sun hat, cotton skirts and t shirts… and head for a beach house. where i stay ALL summer. mornings walking the deserted lake shore in michigan, lazy days of sketching, painting and reading. corn on the cob, salad and tomato sandwiches for eats. long afternoons spent in the cool aisles of used bookstores and antique shops, a stop at the farm market on the way back to the house. evenings with friends and a chilled beer or bottle of wine and good music by the fire or watching the sun sink into the lake. sand on the floors, no schedules, no tv, no rules. see you in september. hey, it’s my fantasy 🙂
Summer began officially here at my house on Tuesday — the first day that all three of my little ones (not so little really) were done with school. I suggested to my youngest who is not a book lover like the rest of the clan that she really needed to get going on finishing a book she was reading — Eggs by Jerry Spinelli. I had bribed her you see — I bought a season pass for her to Six Flags Great America — but she could only go one time for every book she read. Luckily she has a friend who seems to go once a week or at least once every other week so I don’t have to spend my summer days at the amusement park. Any way, she was scheduled to go with the friend to Great America on Wednesday — the very next day and she hadn’t finished the book yet. She read and read. I read some of it out loud to her. We took a break and went to the library to sign up the summer reading club — they bribe kids too. If you sign up, you get a chance to win a Nintendo wii. And she picked out another book — Summertime House by Eileen Spinelli. We returned home fortified with Starbucks treats and she finished Mr. Spinelli’s Eggs book and started Mrs. Spinelli’s Summertime House and finished that one too!!! And then asked if I could get her Love Stargirl by Mr. Spinelli so she could read that next. Well, the library was out of the book, so I went to a bookstore which didn’t have the paperback version — only the hard cover. But what the heck — its the beginning of summer and my little nonreader has just read two books in one day and wants to read a third. So I bought the book while she was at Great America and placed it on her bedside table. When she returned tired and happy at 11pm last night, it was the first thing she noticed when she tottered into her bedroom. She’ll be reading this day I’m sure — when she finally manages to wake up. Hooray for Summertime!!
I think if it smells like summer, it’s summer.
dear hh, i LOVE your summer tale. i can feel it, hear it, see it, practically taste it. i love that you left the book at the bedside table. cannot believe the humongousness of your bribe! oh, honey, you are good good good. at my house that would be a disincentive because the manchild has the same woopsy tummy i do, and we don’t like things high or fast or bouncy, which pretty much rules out the great american roller coaster. but i love that it works for her, and that she seems to be absorbing the whole spinelli family. that’s a crackup. our tradition since forever (it’s probably only 11 years, but 11 quickly turns to feeling like forever doesn’t it?) is the new book and the hotdog lunch tradition, soon as they run in the door on the last day. a crisp new book seems like the perfect way to start things rolling. it’s our first stop, after scarfing down the hotdog-stand dog and fries, before we even dump the backpack of all its yearlong crumbs and assorted accumulations. and yes, we too signed up for the most delicious summer reading bribe-along at our library too. has a bribe ever ever been so juicy, as the little stamp on your summer reading booklet, knowing an ice cream cone awaits you at the summer’s end? apparently, that was then. we’re not up to a wii where i live, but the little rascals do get an $8 gift card for every 8 books they read. so my suddenly voracious reader has set out to read 48 books. i’m thinking it’s a bit too mercenary for my taste, but again, no one asked me. sosser, your summer confection had me dreamin’ too…….wish i could click my fingers drum up that cottage and the whole summer long for you. you know i’d wrap it and tie it with a bow, just for you, if only i could. but at least our dreams come with no pricetags attached. the beauty of bein’ a dreamer…..and finally dear anon, yes yes, smells like summer, most indeedy…..
Oh summer! Here’s my dream/plan:Tumble out of the sky to a nearly unfamiliar land, and to the welcome of loving embraces. Get reacquainted with the Atlantic ocean, float in the warm womb of salt bath; feel the blessing of gravity as you lie on your back in the sand and look down at the skyful of stars out beyond…Meet and share with dear ones and kindred spirits, check navigation points as we envision a future of peace through justice; sing and challenge and laugh and learn and bake bread and break bread. Tell stories of a land far away where children go to school barefoot and hungry, at least when there’s a grown up around to send them. Hold your heart in your hands and weep. Give thanks for every gift. Practice gift-awareness.Bask in the green forests of beloved mountains, and in the comfort and warmth of beloved family. Canoe on sparkling blue water with the entire family, including octogenarian parents.Drink in presence.Read eyes, hold hands, show love, memorize faces, until it’s time to return to said far away land once again, to new dear ones, to new dear land…
oh, lord….magnificent. magnificence. the holy presence of those who pull up chairs astounds me into humbled silence. which is another name for prayer. blessings…….mm, blessings…..hope your dream unfolds as perfectly scripted….
Summer is recognized by liberated toes and the sound of flip flops. By art that is hung in the streets causing a procession of young, old and in-between people (few dogs as well) walking past as we each peer into the stalls of art and learn what stirs us.By street festivals and music festivals and festivals of every shape and sound. By open windows that let in sounds as well as air.By the promise of “time off” with a holiday.By the mingling of people – now made possible since so many are perched in front of their houses on the stairs or in chairs or just lingering on corners. By the way summer announces that it is time to reconnect – creates these opportunities for connections so sorely missed during the cold and isolating months of winter. Thank you summer…..
GORGEOUS! my poet friend, i see your summer through your rat-a-tat city eyes. the city that never sleeps, the city that flows like a river of so many colors and scents and sounds…….i love the city you unfold for us, and bring us to by the hand—with your words, and your field trips. and your insatiable curiosity for all things urban, the nooks and the crannies, and all of the seasons. welcome back to this glorious city, if your weekly boarding an airplane or two has finally drawn to a close….and you are back where you belong. xoxox
I think we should create a “summer badge” for the PUAC-scouts. It can be earned by dutifully and blissfully meeting many of the moments listed above. I would leave the design of said badge to other folks…although the picture on the blog is darn good start…..happy days everyone.
[…] in 2008, when my boys were six and fourteen, i wrote here on the chair something of a summer manifesto, or maybe simply a wish list. as is my wont, i spelled out the few […]